By Brian de los Santos
For Half Moon Bay, the goals this year are simple.
Win the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division, win a playoff game.
They may seem lofty or underwhelming whatever way you look at it, but that'll be what the Cougars have in mind when the Half Moon Bay football team opens the season on Sept. 6 against Hillsdale.
"My thoughts are pretty positive, I like our kids' attitude," second-year Half Moon Bay coach Keith Holden said. "I like our staff, I like the direction were going in. We're already, right now at this point in the season, better than last year."
It's a year of transition for Half Moon Bay, which is dropping out of the top-tier Bay Division to join the middle of the pack Ocean Division of the PAL. That switch takes them out of the same league as coast-rival Terra Nova and pits them against teams like Burlingame, San Mateo and Aragon in league play. The Lake division is the only division lower than the Ocean.
Nonetheless, Holden says that the Ocean is where the Cougars belong.
"I don't think that even when we have good years we belong in the Bay," Holden said. "And when we have bad years, I don't think we belong in the Lake. I think the Ocean is where we should be."
Wherever Half Moon Bay is, the goals remain the same. However, winning the league and in turn a playoff game seems a bit far off for a team that went 1-9 in Holden's first year as coach last season. Or it may not be enough for a team that's trying to emulate past success, like when the Cougars won the Central Coast Section Small School Division title in 2005.
"I know it may sound lame, like, 'Hey, you only want to win one playoff game?'" Holden said. "But in 2005 -- when we won CCS -- our goal was to win one playoff game. And then after we won one, we were like let's win another one."
Senior running back John Bali will most likely be the biggest factor in any playoff run, Holden said. He'll be the Cougars go-to guy on the offensive side of the ball.
"Our No. 1 guy is going to be John Bali," Holden said. "When you start looking at stats for this year, if his name doesn't pop out at you, then we're doing something wrong."
He'll have the Sarabia brothers, Mario and Marcos, blocking for him up front. Holden is expecting big things out of them on the offensive line, and the defensive line as well.
They along with an offense in its second year running the triple-option will aim to improve upon last year's one-win record. A shift from the Bay to the Ocean should help, and Holden remains optimistic of the year ahead.
"I think we'll get a good team every game," Holden said. "I'm not guaranteeing that we win every game, but I'm guaranteeing that we're not going to get blown out every game."
HMB High School Football Schedule 2013
Fri. Sept. 6: Hillsdale H.S. (Black & Orange Bowl), HMB 7:00pm
Fri. Sept. 13: Wilcox H. S. Wilcox H.S., Santa Clara 7:30pm
Fri. Sept. 20: South City H.S., HMB 7:00pm
Fri. Sept. 27: Menlo H.S. Menlo School 3:15pm
Fri. Oct. 11: Woodside H.S Woodside H.S. 7:00pm
Fri. Oct. 18: San Mateo H.S. (Homecoming) HMB 7:00pm
Fri. Oct. 25: Burlingame H.S. (Local Schools) HMB 7:00pm
Fri. Nov. 1: AragonH.S. (Senior Night) HMB 7:00pm
Fri. Nov. 8: Capuchino H.S. Capuchino H.S., San Bruno 2:45pm
Fri. Nov. 15: Terra Nova H.S. (Skull Game) Terra Nova H.S., Pacifica 7:00pm